Reading Yelp reviews can be an uncomfortable experience for many fixed-op managers.
In contrast to when they try a new restaurant, few people look forward to going to the dealership for car repairs. The slightest negative experience will be magnified many times over—and is more likely to be described online.
Even something as minor as an unreturned phone call can prompt a withering two-star review, whereas a service department that provided a seamless experience might not even get a mention.
But Yelp—or any social media that encourages feedback—shouldn’t be written off or ignored.
Because of Yelp’s high search engine ranking, when someone searches for your dealership by name, it’s likely the corresponding Yelp reviews will appear immediately above or below, with the rating in full view.
This is a challenge, but also an opportunity.
So, what are the most common reasons for a service department to have a one- or two-star review? And what can be done to neutralize them?
Here’s a sampling of Yelp comments from a few large dealers in Los Angeles:
- “No one answers the phone at this place—I called five times and every call went straight to voicemail.”
- “I sent numerous emails asking for a status report and none were returned.”
- “Every time the receptionist transferred me to the advisor, I get his voicemail. Trying to get someone to return my calls is so frustrating.”
- “I find it hard to believe the mechanic spent three hours working on my car.”
- “The wait time for my car is always much longer than estimated, sometimes by more than a day.”
- “I didn’t get a status report all day and then suddenly I get a text at 4:55 saying my car is ready, when it was too late to arrange a ride.”
And so on.
As a former vice president of fixed operations at one of the largest Ford dealerships in California, I know those ringing phones were just as frustrating for the service department employees as they were for the customers.
This led me to start a technology company and develop tracking software that allows customers to monitor their car’s maintenance work and minor repairs in real time from their phone, tablet, or computer.
Armed with this type of software, by clicking a link in a text message sent at the time of write-up, customers can see where their car is in line to be repaired, exactly when the technician begins and ends work on their car, and then receive a final text telling them to pick up the car. There’s no need to download an app; customers simply click a link.
Although customer feedback about software like this has been extremely positive, it’s unfortunate how rarely these new technology products—mine and others—are mentioned in dealership materials such as email marketing, social media pages, or on the dealer’s website.
This is a mistake. New technology, when effectively promoted, can neutralize a long list of negative social media reviews, and entice new customers into your dealership.
When a service department begins using technology that addresses common customer complaints, it should let the world know about it.
First, numerous photos and colorful graphics explaining the technology should be uploaded to all social media. On Facebook, these photos can be accompanied by a short blurb explaining the new technology, and how it will improve the customer experience.
And if the dealer is the only one in the local community using this product, this too should be emphasized.
But make sure your announcement explains the new tool in plain English, not automotive jargon. If you simply mention the name of the new technology, it’s unlikely to mean anything to the average car owner.
Instead, talk about how the new product will solve the customer’s problem. In the case of software like mine, dealers can announce that customers now have the ability to watch the progress of their car service in real time, without having to call the dealer.
This keeps customers informed, lets them avoid unnecessary phone calls, and allows them to plan their day.
Because Facebook rewards businesses that upload videos with more free views, creating a video that showcases the new technology—demonstrating how it works and what it looks like on a customer’s phone, along with footage of the customer happily using it—can be an effective and almost zero-cost addition to a dealer’s FB page. And the same footage can be recycled on the dealer’s website.
But back to Yelp and other online reviews: In order to bolster or neutralize lackluster reviews, dealers need to entice current customers to be missionaries of their new technology.
When customers come in for repairs, make sure they are aware of the new technology, how it works, and suggest they test it out.
When they arrive to pick up their car, ask them about their experience, and if positive, request that they leave a favorable Yelp or other online review.
And don’t forget to mention the technology on your printed marketing mailers or postcards, and include a blurb about it in routine email marketing.
Tell the world about your new, customer-friendly tracking software. It can be the element that makes your dealership stand out in a crowded market.
Garrett Ming is the founder and CEO of KABI Automotive Software and the creator of WorksTiming, a cloud-based operational software for Quick Service Operations. KABI is based in Bakersfield, California.
Latest posts by Garrett Ming
- How Service Department Tracking Software Can Improve Your Online Ratings - August 15, 2017